All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due; and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.The Constitution of the United States expressly declares that all such persons
Shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.1In this instance Congress passed an act declaring that they should not be delivered up on such claim; as a penalty for disobedience, any officer of the army or navy should be dismissed from the service. Thus an act of Congress directly forbade that which the Constitution commanded. A more flagrant outrage upon the constitutional obligation could not be committed. But, it may be said, a state of war existed. That does not diminish the crime of the Congress. The commands of the Constitution are positive, direct, unchanged, and unrelaxed by circumstances. They are equally in force in a state of war and in a state of peace. The powers are delegated, and cannot be amended or changed by war or peace. Its words are these:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution.2It declares itself to be, within its province, the supreme law of the United States, not merely during the condition of peace, but continuing through all times and events supreme throughout the Union, until it should be altered or amended in the manner prescribed. Another instance of the like flagrant violation of the Constitution is to be found in the ninth and tenth sections of the confiscation act previously referred to. The Constitution of the United States in Article IV, section 3, says:
No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor.